Fifty-six consecutively admitted elderly (65 and over) patients with depression were assessed on mental, physical and social states. They were followed up and assessed at home one year later. A group of 24 depressed in-patients aged under 65 years admitted to the same ward during the same period was also assessed. Outcome was different for the two groups, with 68% of the elderly 'well' at one year, against 50% of the younger group. The younger group were more likely to have 'poor' outcome (41%) than the elderly (16%). However, there were more deaths than expected, particularly in the elderly. These findings differ from some previous studies, and indicate an excellent prognosis for depression in the elderly. Outcome in younger patients is less good.